Review of Day Training – Supervision, a Reflective Journey. November 26th 2016, with Diane Hardiman and Richard Cove

This was a very full, informative and thought-provoking day of which the following is a small snapshot. Diane and Richard began by giving a brief summary of their backgrounds as supervisors and, of course,  supervisees and invited those present to do the same . Richard commented on how ‘good it was that the group had such a mix of experience’.  He and Diane said everyone was about to ‘embark on a super-visionary journey’ the aim of which was to enable the gaining of a deeper understanding of its subtleties and challenges in order to make the best use of the space and to ‘enjoy supervision – even more’.

The work of Inskipp & Proctor (MMS 2009 Edn) is one of the elements that informs Diane’s work as a Supervisor and Lecturer and in referring to their ‘Normative and RestorativeTasks’ she reminded us that the responsibility within supervision is shared between the supervisor and supervisee. Supervision’s primary task is to ensure that the needs of the client are addressed by the counsellor/psychotherapist and include the consistent monitoring of the delivery of ethical practice. It is a safe place in which to develop skills and understanding. It allows the supervisee to explore and let go of worries and emotional reactions or tranference issues created by the client work and to recharge his or her batteries. It is also a wonderful space in which to explore creative ideas and different ways of looking at and unpicking client issues in order to be of most benefit to that client.

Although the client is always at the centre of the focus, the supervisory time is also about the self care and wellbeing of the supervisee. Diane stressed that it is important therapists maintain an awareness of their own healthy state of ‘fitness to practice’ and to feel able to safely and congruently explore within supervision issues that life creates at times that may threaten the ability to be there for the client. This brought up an interesting and challenging discussion about ‘what is good supervision’ and how to make changes when things do not work out. Diane, Richard and the group all openly brought their own experiences of this subject and how they had, or had not, dealt with difficult situations. Richard remarked, when speaking about the supervisory situation, that ‘if it is not good, then it is no good and therefore changes need to be discussed or, if this is not possible, then made’. Richard encouraged everyone to recognise when a change is needed. Another situation to be aware of, he said, was that organisations occasionally think that line management is or can be supervision – there was a unanimous NO to this and the discussion proved informative as to how best to deal with such misunderstandings in order that the therapist may receive the ‘real’ supervision required. This is not always easy and the sharing of ideas proved invaluable to those who might struggle with such a situation. Sometimes these situations are difficult to deal with and it was clear that a good support structure made up of colleagues, tutors and additional supervision etc. was vital. Diane and Richard said that supervision is about empathic support, curious enquiry and deepening learning as well as a safe place in which to challenge and be challenged. It was clear that an effective therapist is one who has resilience, knowledge, works ethically and in whatever way he or she prefers, creatively and who utilises supervision to empower this.

Everyone agreed it had been helpful to identify the elements that were necessary in the provision of quality supervision regardless of modality or setting. These elements included the Rogerian Core Conditions: respect for all involved, congruence and honesty from the supervisor and supervisee encompassed within a therapeutic relationship based on creatively working and learning together within  a clear, non judgemental, ethical and held framework. This needs to be a relationship in which each has (or is developing) a healthy internal supervisor (Casement, 2013) (which allows the therapist to look at the work from the client’s point of view as well as their own) supported by a clear understanding of their and the other’s responsibilities.

There was a lovely element of shared laughter as well as learning during the day in particular when Diane discussed her second supervisory model  ‘Supervisorsaurus – the 7 (or 11) eyed monster’ whose approach includes the following elements: the ‘stuff’ from the client, counsellor and supervisor; the quality of the supervisory relationship; systems, culture or organisation involved; ethics; the ‘other’;  the unknown and the Soul of the session.

A discussion around ‘do we need supervision?’ concluded with everyone agreeing that it was absolutely necessary for the safety of the client and the therapist. It was a place where risk could be managed, tolerated and processed. Diane explained supervision is vital when risk is an issue in order to explore what might be in the best interests of the client, then to be held as the supervisee explores this with the client and holds or quickly progresses the outcome as necessary. After the event, it will be a place of debrief, reflection and letting go for the therapist in order to ground again and to re-bolster safe care.

The day with Diane and Richard reinforced that what was important within supervision was the relationship – the therapeutic alliance. This was the key ingredient  that supports, empowers and encourages all other skills, knowledge, behaviour and ongoing professional and personal development.

An experiential day of exploration, curiosity and respectful sharing and listening – one of serious reflection mixed with humour and the following is a sample of the experiences and feedback from those who attended:

“The group’s sharing and readiness to listen and create; the depth and breadth of experience and expertise in the room; the interaction in the group between the speakers and the attendees; the collaborative process between the speakers and the attendees; open, accepting discussion; interesting and stimulating; the day was reflective and thought provoking – I feel I am taking a lot away; really enjoyable day; informative and encouraged self exploration; I understand my own supervision more; inclusive forum, time to reflect, all opinions and experiences valued and valuable”.

To Diane and Richard, thank you, the day left everyone wanting more on this subject.

Jacqueline Holloway.